A depleted Consett side served up a magnificent night’s entertainment as they beat Washington 8-5 in one of the craziest games in the club’s history, on this date in 2016.
Missing seven players through injury or suspension, they were three-up inside 12 minutes, contrived to throw away the lead and go behind early in the second half, then stormed back to win in a thrilling final quarter.
Interim manager Mark Eccles made six changes to the side which had drawn with Seaham Red Star a week earlier, Ryan Cummings, Jake Stafford, Dan Hawkins, Chris Mordue, Nathan Steel and Josh Gray coming in for the suspended Joe Grant and Luke Sullivan, injured Ryan McKinnon, Lewis Gibbons and Danny Craggs, and benched Jordan Nellis.
The game was a personal triumph for striker Michael Sweet. Stranded for much of the season out on the wing, he was played through the middle and looked in the mood for goals from the off. Just a minute in, he had a shot saved by keeper Carl Morris, but made no mistake in the fourth minute, when a ball down the left released Steel, and he unselfishly squared for his strike partner to tap in.
A minute later Washington almost levelled when John Butler went round Peter Jeffries and shot from an acute angle, but Stafford got back to clear his shot off the line.
On 10 minutes the same combination responsible for the opening goal struck again, with Sweet getting a little lucky this time, as his shot ricocheted back off him after hitting a defender and leaving the keeper helpless.
Consett were rampant, and on 12 minutes it was 3-0. Sweet was tripped by Adam McGuinness, and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, though it was hotly contested by the visitors. With Sweet on track for one of the quickest hat-tricks in the club’s history, it was a surprise when Gray stepped up to take it, but he slotted it away. The winger, who was tormenting his man down the left, almost scored again on 15 minutes, but fired wide after driving into the box.
Conceding three goals so early on might have crushed some teams, but Washington showed they’re made of sterner stuff by slowly but surely playing their way back into the game. Butler brought a good save from Jeffries at his near post, and on 28 minutes the visitors were awarded a penalty when Steel climbed all over his man in the box. Washington skipper Mark Davison stepped up to take it, but Jeffries pulled off an excellent save.
Hawkins saw a shot saved by Morris at the end of a great run from midfield, and although Steel netted the rebound, he was ruled offside. Steel was then a stud’s length away from converting from six yards out after a fine run down the left by the marauding Jordan Lavery.
On 34 minutes Davison made up for his penalty miss by powerfully heading home Conor Okus’s corner to make it 3-1, but Sweet should have restored the Steelmen’s three-goal lead almost immediately when he found himself running 20 yards clear, but hesitated, allowing Morris to make a crucial save. Just how vital a save it was became apparent when Butler at last got the better of Jeffries on 42 minutes, firing into the bottom corner when Consett failed to deal with a straightforward free-kick, then equalising a minute later after a defensive howler left him with just the keeper to beat.
Consett were stunned, and things looked even gloomier at the second period, when skipper Dan Madden failed to emerge, complaining of a hamstring injury. The impetus was now with Washington, and Butler had the first chance of the half, but lifted his shot over the bar. James Cassidy fired just wide, and Butler was again denied by Jeffries, but the keeper could do nothing when Gray misdirected a header past him on 58 minutes for an own goal which gave Washington an unlikely lead.
The Steelmen looked utterly deflated, but to their credit responded well, and on 69 minutes they got a deserved equaliser to make it 4-4. Calvin Smith’s shot was going wide, but Steel kept the ball alive at the back post, and Jordan Nellis, who had replaced Madden at half-time, prodded home from close range.
A minute later it was 5-4, as Steel burst through on the right, rounded the keeper, got a lucky bounce, and walked the ball into the empty goal. On 76 minutes, Consett scored a sixth, when the pass of the night from Smith played in Nellis, and the striker slipped the ball under the advancing Morris. Two minutes later Consett thought they had a seventh when Nellis’s ball across the face of goal was tucked away by Sweet, but the ‘goal’ was disallowed for offside.
If the fans thought the excitement was over they were wrong. Nellis rattled the post from Sweet’s cross, and on 80 minutes it was 7-4, as Sweet completed a well-deserved hat-trick from Steel’s cross, again benefiting from a ricochet off the keeper. A minute later Butler completed his hat-trick to ensure Consett couldn’t quite see the game out comfortably.
Nellis almost made it three hat-tricks in the game when he burst past two defenders, and saw his shot cannon back off the bar. But fittingly the last word went to Sweet in injury time. He took Gray’s pass with his back to goal, held off his man and turned to complete the scoring in a game which was tremendous entertainment for the fans, but the sort which gives managers nightmares.
CONSETT: 1 Peter Jeffries, 2 Ryan Cummings, 3 Jordan Lavery, 4 Jake Stafford (sub 12 Paul Buzzeo 61), 5 Dan Madden (captain) (sub 14 Jordan Nellis 46), 6 Dan Hawkins, 7 Chris Mordue, 8 Calvin Smith, 9 Nathan Steel, 10 Michael Sweet, 11 Josh Gray. Subs not used: GK Ben Cole.
WASHINGTON: 1 Carl Morris, 2 Steven Stewart (sub 14 Brian Rowe 61), 3 Adam McGuinness, 4 Paul Wardle, 5 Greg Swansbury (captain), 6 Michael Tait, 7 James Cassidy, 8 Conor Okus, 9 John Butler, 10 Mark Davison, 11 Anthony Callaghan. Subs not used: 12 Chris Wallace, 15 Chris Winn, 16 Aaron Croft, 17 Tristan Mitford.